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Diet of Children of Three Years and Upwards

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DIET OF CHILDREN OF THREE YEARS AND UPWARDS.

Within the writer's own experience the diet of children line undergone gradual amplification. lie has behind him an experience of well-nigh thirty years, during which he has had the medical supervision of a very large number of children.

In that period the social condition of the people has undergone great changes, and the standard of living has, in every class of life, materially altered. The variety of foods now readily at the command of even the poorer classes of the community has greatly increased, and accessories once deemed luxuries have be come common additions to every meal. Thus, in Scotland, porridge and milk used to be the sole article for breakfast; now, if not entirely displaced by tea, it is commonly only the begin ning of the meal, and a prelude to the tea, fish, egg, or bacon and egg, with bread and butter, without which breakfast is no meal at all. In the same way, whereas a soup rich in vegetable or broth, with potato or bread, was counted a sufficient dinner for even an adult, now the soup is merely the preliminary to the meat and potatoes, followed by the milk pudding. In consequence most children suffer sooner or later from some form of digestive disorder, at least most of the children who live in towns. It seems to the writer, therefore, desirable to lay down some general rules applicable to the diet of children beyond the years of infancy.

The child of three years of age, if brought up on lines similar to those indicated in the pre ceding paragraphs, will be getting three or four meals a day, viz.:— Breakfast of porridge and milk; or bread and milk.

Mid-day dinner of soup or broth, with bread or potato; or fish or fowl, or meat, with vegetable and potato; or rice and milk, eaten with bread and butter; or milk pudding, with stewed fruit and bread and butter or biscuit; or milk, bread and butter, and an egg.

Afternoon meal of milk, with bread and butter, a little jelly, plain biscuit or plain cake; or milk pudding and milk, with bread and butter or a biscuit.

About bed-time: Milk and a biscuit.

Now this is an entirely suitable diet for any child up to six or seven years of age, certain circumstances being guaranteed. These cir cumstances are that the child has been trained from the earliest years to having its meals punctually at regular hours, and to sitting down, so to speak, properly, and disposing of the meal in a business-like way, and to having no food of any kind, not even fruit, between meals. Any child who has been trained pro perly in this way, and who has been taught to chew its food thoroughly, and to behave cor rectly at the table, as every child can be from quite an early age, will give little or no trouble so long as it is in health. Its appetite will be

a healthy one, and it will need neither coaxing nor compulsion to take an adequate meal. The child who needs to be coaxed to take its food, for whom it is deemed necessary to prepare titbits to tempt a precarious appetite, who plays with its food, who dislikes so ninny things that it is difficult to find what it likes, is either in ill-health or has been spoilt; probably it is in ill-health because it has been spoilt. The child that has been properly reared from its infancy has no troublesome likes or dislikes requiring to be taken into consideration. Under these circumstances the child's appetite is the standard of a sufficient diet, and no other guide is required. No artificial regulations or calcu lations can take the place of this natural guide to the amount of food a child needs.

This fact has been scientifically placed be yond controversy by Professor Chittenden of Yale, and has been shown by him to be appli cable to adults of every class of life and char acter of work. He has shown that a man in health, who will eat slowly and stop as soon as he is satisfied, can be reckoned on to take that amount of material he needs for the purposes of nutrition, and will be found to take from day to day or week to week an amount of food that in nutritive contents varies singularly little. So, in the properly-managed child, its unsophisticated natural appetite is a guide to the amount of food it needs which cannot be improved upon. It is quite a common thing to see a father or mother, who is serving the por tions for dinner, carefully estimate the amount of meat, fowl, &c., each child should have, but later to permit the child to have pudding more or less up to the limit of its own desire. This is exactly the opposite of what ought to be. Suppose that the meal is meat, with potato and vegetable, followed by pudding or a sweet of some kind, then the child should be taught to make its meal of the meat, vegetable, and potato, and should be permitted to have as much as it wants, the condition already stated being ob served that it eats slowly. Thereafter a small portion of the sweet, regulated by the parent, may be given merely as an extra, but of such inconsiderable amount and of so simple a char acter that it barely counts as contributing much to the meal, though it pleasantly completes the meal to the child.

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